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JMIR Serious Games




Background: Cigarette smoking results in an estimated seven million deaths annually. Almost half of all smokers attempt to quit each year, yet only approximately 6% are successful. Although there are multiple effective interventions that can increase these odds, substantial room remains for improvement. One effective approach to helping smokers quit is contingency management, where quitting is incentivized with the delivery of monetary rewards in exchange for objective evidence (e.g., exhaled carbon monoxide levels) of abstinence.

Objective: We assessed the feasibility and promise of Inspired, a contingency management mobile app for smoking cessation that uses game-based rewards to incentivize abstinence from smoking instead of the monetary (or material) rewards typically used. We sought participant feedback and limited objective data on: the features and design of Inspired, interest in using Inspired when it becomes available, the likelihood of Inspired being an effective cessation aid, and the rank order preference of Inspired relative to other familiar smoking cessation aids.

Methods: Twenty-eight treatment-seeking smokers participated in this study. Participants attended a single one-hour session in which they received an overview of the goals of the Inspired mobile game, practiced submitting breath carbon monoxide (CO) samples, and played representative levels of the game. Participants were then told that they could play an extra level, or they could stop, complete an outcome survey, receive payment, and be dismissed. A sign-up sheet requesting personal contact information was available for those who wished to be notified when the full version of Inspired becomes available.

Results: Using binary criteria for endorsement, participants indicated that, assuming it was currently available and fully developed, they would be more likely to use Inspired than: any other smoking cessation aid (21/28, 75%), the nicotine patch (23/28, 82%), a drug designed to reduce smoking cravings (23/28, 82%), or a program involving attendance in training sessions or support group meetings (27/28, 96%). In the questionnaire, participants indicated that both the Inspired program (26/28, 93%) and the Inspired game would be “Fun” (28/28, 100%), and 71% (20/28) reported that the program would help them personally quit smoking. Fifty-eight percent of participants (15/26) chose to continue playing the game rather than immediately collecting payment for participation and leaving. Eighty-two percent of participants (23/28) signed up to be notified when the full version of Inspired becomes available.

Conclusions: This was the first study to evaluate a game-based contingency management app that uses game-based virtual goods as rewards for smoking abstinence. The outcomes suggest that the completed app has potential to be an effective smoking cessation aid that would be widely adopted by smokers wishing to quit.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Serious Games, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

Publication of this article was supported by the Rowan University Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.